State sinks $377 million more in red

Lawmakers Must Address Revenue Shortfall
Senate Republican Office

Salem, OR – Thursday lawmakers received news the state’s expected revenues are down another $377.5 million. This brings the total decline since the end of the 2009 Legislative Session to $1.268 billion. Still, the halls of the State Capitol in Salem remain largely empty. Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend) wants to change that and renewed Republican calls for an emergency session of the Oregon Legislature.“It is long past time for members of the Legislature to return to Salem and do the job for which we were elected,” said Telfer, who serves on the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee that received the revenue forecast. “Allowing another round of across-the-board reductions to all agencies is just plain wrong.”

The Governor has the ability to deal with budget shortfalls by reducing all budgets equally, regardless of priority to Oregonians. After the last revenue forecast agency heads were directed to cut 9% from their budgets. At the Department of Human Services, which has a total budget of more than $15 billion, the reductions included ending programs like Oregon Project Independence which helps keep seniors in their homes and out of more expensive nursing homes. The total cost of this vital program was just $7.6 million out of a $15 billion budget for the department.
“We have seen too many cases where state agencies look to punish Oregonians for revenue shortfalls by cutting the most vital programs first,” said Senator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro). “It is long past time for legislative leadership to step up and do the work Oregonians expect.”

Should the Legislature come into emergency session, one option for budget reductions include removing just the general fund money from the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). The savings this biennium would be about $7 million and could be used to fund a more important program like Oregon Project Independence. Any functions DLCD is no longer able to afford would fall to counties which have a vested interest in the local economy.

“We must make sure anything we fund from this point forward helps create jobs,” said Telfer. “We will not fix our budget problems until we get Oregon families back to work.”

Republicans in the Legislature are in the process of putting together plan to help balance the state budget without the need for across the board cuts.